Posted on: October 4th, 2010 Editorial – Nerd Trek: The Wrath of Cons

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Even as I sit here in my cubicle in the waning days of September, I look back at what was a great year and I eagerly anticipate the return of spring next year. Not for when one’s fancy turns to love, but that’s when convention season begins anew! From comic books, anime, horror, sci-fi and gaming to even fan-specific shows you can’t throw a stone on the internet without getting hits for the next great convention or fan expo. What is it about these conventions that bring so much of us out of hiding and into the glaring light of the outside world? Well, you wouldn’t be reading my articles if you thought that I’d stop there, so read on MacDuff.

Conventions provide not only a place to get the autograph from your favorite star or that hard to find swag, they also provide a way for a divisive community such as ours to come together and let our geek flags fly proudly. Think of it kind of like a nerd-pride parade that extends over an entire weekend. These weekend conventions are highly anticipated; as fans spends thousands of dollars on airfare and hotels to be able to attend. As much as they spend on getting there and back they spend even more at the conventions themselves on food, drink and swag. It also provides you with a badge of honor that says ‘yes I was there, and it was AWESOME’ with plenty of epic tales to tell your friends that couldn’t make it.

Of course you have to take the good with the bad. Overcrowding, the ridiculously long lines, the over-priced convention food, limited run of con exclusives and of course limited seating to events can wear on people over the course of a weekend. Not to mention another annoyance at a convention: The Super-fan. These people are the die-hard fans that will pop up at nearly every convention they can get to, be the most vocal (read: ridiculously loud) about their show/game/series/characters being the best of all while slamming everyone else’s fandom and really begin to wear down the all-around good vibes of the convention.

To all super-fans out there I say: for the love of all that is holy please calm the hell down and shut the hell up! Being a fan is fine but that doesn’t give you carte blanche to slam ANYBODY else’s likes or good time at the convention. They paid their hard earned money just like you so give them the respect that they deserve. If their costume doesn’t look as nice (read: as store bought) as yours you don’t get to point out the flaws in their costume. When in line for the Q&A period at a panel, keep your question small and brief, if you have more to ask then get back in line and ask again (time permitting of course).

Another point I want to touch on has become more and more of a problem as the conventions get bigger and start to cater to a wider variety of people; that would be violence at a convention. Con-violence is sadly becoming more and more apparent as the cons get larger. Star Wars fans staring down the Star Trek fans in a ‘West-Side Story’ style gang warfare to violent outbursts in those long lineups to even where people at seated in an event. This really has culminated in the now-infamous stabbing in Hall H at the San Diego Comic Con. I was in Hall H when it all went down (fortunately I was on the other side too) and I probably wouldn’t have heard anything about it if some schmuck when up to the podium and said “Please return to your seats. There’s nothing to see here.” When you say a line like that EVERYONE is going to get out of their seats to have a look at what went down.

Now being at any kind of convention these days with the amount of money spent on costumes, the pass, the food and the swag one has to ask themselves: Is it worth it? Is all the money I’ve saved for this on airfare, hotel and all the tropes of conventioneering worth being removed from the event with a possible banning, or even a trip to jail just because I couldn’t get the better seat that I wanted? The answer is a thousand times NO!

I personally am not going to piss away a chance to be at any of the conventions with my friends just because of the actions of another. I can’t control the actions of any other conventioneer; I can only control and be responsible for my own actions. Besides, there are always feedback forms or even forums for me to bitch about the long lines and that super-fan in the brown coat which I can get to AFTER the conventions’ over. There is a time and a place for that; it is not while you’re enjoying yourself at the con.

As conventions grow and expand their repertoire to cater to fans I’ve been hearing a growing voice showing their discontent over shows that are not genre shows (read: shows like ‘America’s got Talent’ or ‘Canadian Idol’) getting space at the convention. Really people, with the amount of time that we’ve been ostracized for liking certain shows or certain forms of print media, are we really going to judge people that arrive at these conventions because they’re fans of these kinds of shows? Sadly, I’ve seen it more and more at conventions these days and it really puts an ugly stain on what should be wholesome fandom.

These fans have just as much right to be there as we do and they should get the same level of respect that we *should* give each other in the genre community. They are letting their fan flags fly just as much as we are and they should be included in our nerdy reindeer games.

To conclude this rant, conventions are a great way for fans of all genres and communities to come together in the spirit of fandom. Let’s all just play nice with each other (especially with those new non-genre show fans) and we’ll all make the conventions a much better place.

Until next time, stay epic my friends!

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Posted on: January 6th, 2010 Nerdwatch: DC’s IDENTITY CRISIS

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Comic book heroes, specifically our primary color clad caped and coweled first-tier characters, are known and celebrated for battling larger-than-life villains and monsters that are as aesthetically over the top as they are in theory. Every once in a while though, a publisher takes a moment to give us a dark and gritty real-life villain. Tony Stark battled alcoholism. Peter Parker was sexually molested. And while these serious stories involving mainstream properties are effective and justifiable, none have quite managed to not only change the status quo of the established continuity, but to change the way we perceive multiple characters and their inter-personal relationships. None except DC’s Infinite Crisis.

I often cite Watchmen and Preacher as being my favorite comic book stories of all time, but truth be told I find myself revisiting and recommending Identity Crisis, a seven-issue mini, many times a year. It’s with that sentiment I place Identity Crisis as the finest superhero tragedy ever written. It makes Avengers: Disassembled look like Family Circus.

WARNING: Mild SPOILERS follow.

identitycrisis1The plot of Identity Crisis starts simple and before you know it escalates out of control turning friends and teammates against one another, and leaving everyone – even the man of steel – at their most vulnerable. When Sue Dibny, wife of long-time JLA member Ralph Dibny (aka The Elongated Man), is found horribly murdered, the heroes of the DC universe come out of the woodwork to solve the crime. The string of terror doesn’t end however, as more superhero family members become targets as well. As members of the Justice League begin to sift through the facts upon suspicion of Dr. Light, they discover a cover-up plot that tests their very morals within the organization.

It was June of 2004 when Identity Crisis began to rock the foundations of the DC Universe. At the time writer Brad Meltzer was more recognized as a crime novelist than a comic scribe, with exception to a short Green Arrow run in ‘02/’03. What Meltzer brought to the table with Identity Crisis, is a truly engaging crime mystery wrapped in emotion and intrigue. The book is often heartbreaking and always epic in its big reveals and action scenes. Identity Crisis is devastating at times but never makes us uncomfortable and always keeps us entertained. This book just works on every level.

Meltzer also gets the DC universe, and its characters. He writes everything convincingly, in a way we’ve never quite seen with a DC title. He understands how to make us feel for each hero; we worry when they worry, we lash out when they lash out, and goddammit we cry when they cry, which is often. Nothing in Identity Crisis just happens; everything is very calculated and affecting. There are some serious subjects tackled here folks, from rape to murder to the responsibilities and morals that come with policing the world from a seemingly untouchable position.

SueFuneralWhile the book has its obvious highlights, the literally jaw-dropping death and funeral of Sue Dibny and one of the greatest comic book fights put to page where Deathstroke systematically takes out the entire Justice League, Meltzer truly defined himself as the one who made Ralph Dibny, the Elongated Man, an unforgettable character. While Dibny has only grown in popularity since Identity Crisis – he had a main story arc in the 52 series – Identity Crisis put flesh on the bones of the all-too-often overlooked character. While Ralph fits in perfectly with the likes of The Flash and Green Lantern, it is his indelible grasp of love and humanity that makes him entire relatable. It makes it that much harder to watch him suffer and mourn; this hurt is projected to all characters in this book who endure the same, making the plight of the costumed vigilante that much more real.

I speak of Identity Crisis as if it were depressing and gloomy, and while it is certainly mature in that matter, it packs in that superhero quality you’ve grown to expect and love. Identity Crisis manages to combine both of these tones and what’s left is a massive revelation that starts a chain of events that would define DC for many years, as well as potentially change the way we see certain characters.

In regards to the books visuals, simply the pencils are gorgeous. Rags Morales (Hawkman, Nightwing) brings a certain human contrast to the characters and their poses that works wonderfully with Meltzer’s story. Much like the story, Morales’ art is solid and lean but a little sharp and gritty at the same time. His attention to detail is immaculate. A nod has to be given to Alex Sinclair’s colors in the book, which feature the right amount of primary pop with a subtle wash of backgrounds bringing the cities to life. The collected trade also includes all seven covers by the late Michael Turner.

I think I’ve officially gone on record as saying that this book is amazing. Go now and purchase Identity Crisis.

Posted on: November 7th, 2009 NERDWATCH – The Goon

Welcome to NERDWATCH, a regular column here at GKS highlighting some of the must-read collected stories in comic books. No matter if you’re new to comics, or a seasoned veteran, NERDWATCH serves as your trusted comic book checklist.

2655-1Where do even begin with The Goon? I’m entirely embarrassed that I’m ten years late with this book. I fell in love with this title from the first issue, and have awarded it the ‘funniest comic book ever’ award. Ladies and Gentlemen, this book is bloody brilliant.

The Goon, with his partner Franky, is the hulking muscle for Labrazio, a feared (yet unseen) mobster. On top of their thugly duties, Goon and Franky find themselves constantly fighting off hordes of the undead controlled by the Zombie Priest, or waging war with sea-monsters, hags and ghouls of all natures.

The thing about The Goon that makes it so darned unique, is its inability to fall into any one category or sub-genre. It is a comedy book –  it’s absolutely hilarious, but certainly not exclusively. Nor is it a straight up horror or fantasy. It is sequential and at the same time dense enough to be a long-lasting weekly series, but it captures the best elements of the old paper strip format in that its pacing is rapid-fire, in single-serving morsels. The book is vibrant and curvey, yet solid and hard like a noir. You’d be hard-pressed to find a book like The Goon, one that taps into the geekiest of imaginations and repeatedly punches that spot in your brain that is reserved for only the most depraved and purest of laughs. As if a talking fish-man wasn’t funny enough, “KNIFE TO THE EYE” is the icing on the cake. Eric Powell, the mad scientist behind the story and the (gorgeous) artwork in this book, has single-handedly created a self-referential masterpiece that blends together vintage horror, b-movie sci-fi, 50’s exploitation and the elusive pie-mad skunk-ape into a deliciously drinkable concoction of dementia.

Not just tonally, but conceptually the book is a lot like Ren & Stimpy in that there is no real main plot; same with the serials of old, we are given a few highly conceived and developed characters, and every week (or month or trade) we’re taken on a new journey, each one more ridiculous than the last. I just kills me sometimes, the hoops these characters jump through, all to set-up a single, hilarious punch-line (Powell’s dialogue is for the ages, by the way). I strongly encourage you to get into this book, even if it is outside of your normal pull-list. Eric Powell gets comic book readers and knows how to tell a simple story that keeps us coming back for more.

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Now make your way to your local comic shoppe, post haste, and pick up The Goon trades (from Darkhorse), there are about 10 in total so far I believe. I guarantee you will love it.

Also, be on the lookout for news on a Goon feature film! The book is making it’s way to the big-screen via CG animation. Eric Powell wrote the script, with the great David Fincher producing. Clancy Brown and Paul Giamatti will provide the voices for The Goon and Franky, respectively. Until then, here’s a look at how that might look.

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That does it for this edition of Nerdwatch!

Posted on: September 11th, 2009 NERDWATCH – The Boys

 

Welcome to the first installment of NERDWATCH, a new regular column here at GKS. NERDWATCH highlights some of the must-read collected stories in comic books. No matter if you’re new to comics, or a seasoned veteran, NERDWATCH serves as your trusted comic book checklist.

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There are so many mainstream greats when it comes to comic book stories. There’s just no disputing a top-ten list with Watchmen, Preacher or The Dark Knight Returns. For the first edition of NERDWATCH, I wanted to showcase a lesser known title, written by one of the medium’s finest writers – The Boys by Garth Ennis.

If you’ve read Preacher, one of the finest comic book stories ever told, you have a great idea of what Ennis’ writing is all about; he’s dark, gritty, wildly explicit and yet hilarious at the same time. Ennis is the master of the “nothing sacred” and “show no mercy” approach, but his work is not just shock value. He creates these indelible characters and develops them to a tee, while crafting stories that are near-impossible to put down. If you haven’t read Preacher, well, you are most certainly missing out. When I finished the last page of the ninth and final volume I, was touched but equally saddened that the ride was over.

While The Boys fits in an entirely different genre from Preacher, the superhero capes-and-cowls type, you can tell right away that it’s Ennis. Call it a chaotic comfort, if you will. Where Ennis only touched on sexual perversion and violence with Preacher, he downright embraces it with The Boys. The story is simple yet intriguing: Thanks to a new drug called “compound v”, comic-book superheros exist in our time, saving the day and stopping crime. But behind closed doors these heroes aren’t as righteous as they seem; wild sex, drugs, deplorable behavior and carelessness are the norm and the CIA has instated a small group of operatives, The Boys, to reign them in if needed. Led by Billy the Butcher, The Boys use extreme violence and tactics to maintain order.

The first two trades, collecting the first 14 issues of the series focus mainly on Billy the Butcher getting the team back in business, and Wee Hughie, the team’s newest recruit – a Scottish conspiracy-nut whose girlfriend is killed by a clumsy superhero. In one of the most obvious examples of celebrity emulation, you will almost immediately recognize the person which Hughie is drawn after, English actor Simon Pegg. The rest of the team is filled out by Mother’s Milk, the large African-American presence, The Frenchman, an elegant yet absolutely insane francophone, and The Female, never speaking and almost cherubic in innocence, yet terrifyingly lethal.

The Boys Ennis Robertson Wee Hughie severed armsThe pages of this book are just dripping with juxtaposition; colorful capes and smiles and heroes over-top of rough sex, prostitution, drugs, homo-erotic fantasy and extremely graphic death and physical destruction. The greatest thing about Ennis’ writing is his ability to make you feel depraved yourself for laughing, but he truly does make someone’s arms getting ripped off, funny. It’s not that the writing takes the low-road like a shoot-em-up action film, but yet he is such a craftsman with dialogue and pacing and even the situations themselves that you can’t help it. On the surface the book has the superflous impression of the superhero tales of yore, except the Superman archetype forces the Supergirl archetype to perform oral sex on him and the rest of the Justice League. And even considering all that, the rawness comes off very real, with mascara running, teeth flying and lips swelling. It should be noted that Darick Robertson’s art, a mix of realism and exaggerated comic style, aids and enhances the flow of the story quite nicely. 

I’ve only read the first two trades of the series and I was hooked with the first few pages of issue #1; this is an incredible read for casual or hardcore comic fans, as long as you’re cool with explicit language, violence and sexuality. So far their has been 33 issues released, over five trade paperbacks; Garth Ennis has stated that the series, published by Dynamite Entertainment, would end around the 60 issue mark.

But that’s not all, if it’s a comic book, there has to be a film in development, right? Well… maybe. Variety reported in February of 2008 that Colombia Pictures had acquired the rights to a film based on the book, with Neal Moritz (I Am Legend, Fast & Furious) producing. No other news on the project since August, 2008 when The Hollywood Reporter broke the news that Matt Manfredi and Phil Hay (Aeon Flux) are handling screenplay duties.

I think it’s safe to assume that Simon Pegg would most likely be up for the role of Wee Hughie should The Boys make the jump to the big-screen.

Until the next installment of NERDWATCH, pick up The Boys and enjoy.